Monthly Archives: August 2014

Winter warmth comes with 4 heater types in an off road camper trailer

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Winter warmth by camp fire with off road camper trailer resized 600We all love campfires! They are one of the few touchstones to our primative past and so popular with young and old. The social environment is relaxed, and you can just sit back and enjoy the stars, watching the embers curl upwards into the night sky. You would be reluctant to leave this and step back to your camper trailer bed… unless… you have bought a Kimberley.

(Have you spotted the guitar in the background of the campfire shot… how many of you carry one with your camper trailer?)

Lets look at all the heating options you have available:

Underbed membrane Heater: The most eco-friendly and lowest cost to operate:

The under-bed membrane heater is a thermo-plastic that operates on 12V and is placed under the mattress. It is very low heat (48W max) but operates off the battery system. This means that during the day, if you operate with solar, the solar power will run this heater. You can continue to use it during the night as well. It is most effective if let running all the time during winter, even when you are driving. The photo below shows the membrane heater before the mattress is placed on top. Here is how it works:

off road camper trailer membrane 12v heatingThe heater is a 2mm thin plastic membrane developed in Norway (for car seat heating). It slowly heats the mattress or to be more preceise the air captured in the mattress as well as the mattress internal materials (like the coil springs). This “drys” the mattress out as well as pre-heats it. The membrane temperature is close to 40 degrees (remember the body is 38 degrees). So the membrane just gets the mattress to body temperature and can hold it there while it is running.

This makes a very comfortable sleeping environment for those people who hate “electric blankets” that just get too hot or have spot heating.

It is great for people who are affected by an mould in the mattress as the drying out every night eliminates the build up of body moisture in the mattress.

The disadvatage is if you forgot to turn on! However, there are timers you can program!

Diesel Space heater: very eco-friendly and quiet as it “recovers’ heat from the hot water system

Kimberley Space HeaterThis gem is a heat recovery device about the size of a large box of tissues. It has a 1.2kW capacity which is high and it uses a very quiet ball bearing fan to move the air through the heat exchanger. It gets its heat from the Diesel hot water heater in the Kimberley. It doesnt use the actual “hot water” circuit, but the heated glycol fluid that is used to heat the hot water. A stanless steel heat exchanger is used in the hot water system in a kimberley so that you can pump from any water source no matter what the quality directly into the hot water system for those endless hot showers! To do this you HAVE to have a heat exchanger. 

The Space heater is programmed for 30mins or 60 mins operation which is ideal before going to bed or turn it on at 4am when it is coldest. You can run it all night with a slight modification but most people find this is not necessary.

The diesel comes from a small 3.5l tank in the Kimberley Kamper. Typically, most people find this lasts for 4-6 weeks before topping up. Because it is diesel, it is easy to use the same fuel as the vehicle. It is the lowest cost source of heating because it burns so efficiently. 

The best place for these space heaters near the rear of the bed circulating warm air throughout the camper trailer tent (and second bedroom if it is attached).

Diesel Air Heater: Hi power and long lasting

Air heater for off road camper trailerIf you want the toastiest experience, then go for the 2kW Diesel Air heater. This is also the size of a box of tissues and takes the diesel fuel directly then exhausts it outside the camper trailer through a metal exhaust system. It has a hi speed fan and really moves the air around. In the Kimberley Kruiser, we duct this in with thermstat controls, but in the Kamper we fit a hand held remote control where you “dial up” the required output power and fan speed.

The author has camped with one of these in a Kimberley kamper in the Rockies (USA) with a dusting of snow on the tropical roof and the awning. The heater heated up the inside the Kamper and the complete annex. It was T-Shirt conditions!

These heaters use a little more fuel and if you run them for hours to heat the annex as well. The diesel tank may require filling once a week. It still only costs less than $6 to fill. That is very economical for complete heating compared to gas.

The utimate heater: a folding wood heater fireplace with chimmney inside the annex

Roof Jack 3 resized 600We have shipped several of these to the USA.The wood burning fireplace is a compact metal folding unit with a long chimney. We sew a special gasket material into the annex awning roof. This appears to be “rubber” but it is a special heat proof material that forms a seal around the chimmney. These are typically 200mm to 250mm diameter. The portable fireplace is assembled and the chimney placed through the roof.

The canvas used in these units is a special flame proof canvas that is not available normally in Australia. We have to get 5,000m of it made at a time and certified. It is slightly heavier and a little stiffer as it is impregnated with flame retardant material.

If you light a corner of the canvas, the flame just goes out!

Now this is just as well, as sparks and embers from the portable fire would be flying up that chimney and most likely come down on the tropical roof or the Awning roof. This flame proof canvas is nearly double the cost but in the USA they camp in the snow and go fishing at the beginning of the spring when it is still very cold. They camp in the one location for a week at a time so the setup time is worth it!

The Photo below is a 2007 Model Kimberley Kamper – for the eagle eye, notice the kitchen is reversed in this model!off road camper trailer with wood stove inside annex

Where is the fine line between Authentic camping and an Oasis in the Bush?Download this free eBook on Design for Comfort with Caravans and Camper Trailerscovering Water, Heating Air-conditioning and more!

Design for comfort Water Heating and Air conditioning for off road campers and caravans 1

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You may only use 5% of the capability of an off-road camper trailer!

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Water crossing in kimberley off road camper trailer

“We travel just 2.5 hours west of Sydney on the freeway, then 20 minutes on a dirt road to where there is a great camping spot on the side of a river. You will find many people here with the same idea.
However, crossing the river a little further up requires just 100m of off road travel; then 300-500mm of water crossing; then another 200m off road to the perfect camping spot…. with absolute privacy.
So we only use the “off road” features of our camper trailer for less than 5% of our travels; but wow, that 5% makes all the difference to great camping!” quote from Sydney Customer.

So what off road features do you use that lets you be more independent, go anywhere and experiance ALL of Australia?

Feature Onroad Outback(assume soft floor camper trailer) Off-road(assume hard floor camper trailer)
Travel Clearance Low Low-Moderate High
Adjustable travel height No No Yes with air springs
Soft Suspension for stability at speed Generally Leaf springs Generally limited travel coil springs Good travel coil or air springs
Wading creeks and rivers No Maybe but sections may take in water Yes, should be good for 700mm+
Reverse turn in vehicles length Maybe but low clearance means flat areas only Maybe but low clearance means flat areas only Good clearance and long drawbar means yes, easily.
Dust Ingress Usually Usually Should be not at all
Interchangeable wheels and tyres Generally no Generally no Generally yes, though there are limits based on make of vehicle.
Speed of setup (Fast is 1 minute) Always softfloor and slow If hardfloor, can be fast. If soft floor, slow If hardfloor, can be fast. If soft floor, slow
Air flow for comfort Generally no forced air flow inside tent Generally no forced air flow inside tent Generally there is forced air flow or extraction for improved comfort.
Compressor refrigeration for off road Generally not Generally not Generally yes, with added filtration of compressor cooling air while traveling.

What are the different scenarios that give the off-road features of camper trailers a big advantage?

  • Taking a short cut through difficult roads to save going “all the way around”.
  • Crossing a creek or river to get to a better camping spot quickly.
  • Traveling at reasonable-to-good speed over difficult roads.
  • Reversing out of a blind “road” with ease
  • Picking up that unpowered site right on the beach where the others just cant get to.
  • Setting up camp in minutes.
  • Much more comfortable design for both hot and/or cold nights.
  • Going down a short difficult track to get to the perfect camp by the river.
  • Going up to the highest point for the best views.
  • Hard floor keeps “flash floods” from getting inside.
  • Large solar and batteries for independence without running a generator.

Overall, you to experience ALL of Australia!

DOWNLOAD a 44-Page Guide to Off Road Camper Trailer design issues and your needs

essential guide for off road design of an camper trailer

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Why it’s smart to match wheels & tyres in an off-road camper trailer!

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matching wheels and tyres of camper trailer to vehicleHow many tyres have you changed in the last 12 months? If you are just driving around a local urban area, the stats would be zero. But if you are on country roads, then probably 1 or 2. However, if you are on poor bush roads then the number climbs above this. It is hard to say and depends on the roads in a particular year and season.

The best prevention is good eyesight and concentration as you look out for every conceivable stake or piece of wire visible from the drivers seat. Yet at sunrise or sunset, you will miss a lot of the warning signs (let alone if you have to drive at night). The inevitable can then happen.

Which tyre is most vulnerable?

Your vehicles tyres, particularly the “driven” tyres are most vulnerable. Then the rear tyres may have a higher load on them so may be the ones to watch. However, the camper trailer can also be vulnerable if the tracking width of its wheels and tyres are different to the vehicle. So for the majority of Jayco trailers for example, their width is at least 200mm wider than a large 4WD. This increases their vulnerability significantly.

The most valuable scenario when having a trailer of the same tracking width AND matching wheels and tyres is the second back-up spare for your vehicle.

Follow the scenarios below in the table:

Leave Town with:

Vehicle with Camper Trailer behind; different tracking width to vehicle; wheels are not inter-changeable to vehicle

Vehicle with Camper Trailer behind, similar tracking width to vehicle; wheels are not inter-changeable to vehicle

Vehicle with Camper Trailer behind, similar tracking width to vehicle, wheels are inter-changeable to vehicle

Tyre is destroyed on vehicle at first grid out of town

Use vehicle Spare wheel and tyre

Have to divert from route if not carrying second spare.

Have to divert from route if not carrying second spare.

(No need to divert as trailer spare is second spare)

Flat tyre on 3rd day

Hope you diverted

Hope you diverted

Use Trailer spare as second spare

Couldn’t get a new tyre in bush town and had to get a repair done by locals

Difficult roads ahead

You have BOTH the vehicle wheels and the trailer wheels vulnerable

Your vehicle wheels only are most vulnerable, not the trailer

Your vehicle wheels only are most vulnerable, not the trailer

Inevitable happens

You end up with a flat on the vehicle and then later in the day on the trailer coming into camp.

You end up with a flat on the vehicle

You end up with a flat on the vehicle

You have no spares available

You have no vehicle second spare and are vulnerable but trailer spare is OK

You have a second spare

What Action?

You must divert again for a tyre repair

You must divert again for a tyre repair

You can hold off.

On the way to get the new tyre, another tyre slowly leaks

You stop by the side of the road and decide:

Do I leave my partner here with the trailer and hitch a ride to closest town for a new tyre

You stop by the side of the road and decide:

Do I leave my partner here with the trailer and hitch a ride to closest town for a new tyre

You use the second spare and keep driving

You see the sign post to Wolf Creek!



Camp and have fun!

Watch these points with matching wheels and tyres:

Stud number and Pattern: This is measured by the “Pitch Circle Diameter” of the Studs and the number of studs.

Stud Thread: Either Metric of UNF (Unified National Fine). They are NOT interchangeable if one is on the trailer and a different thread on the vehicle.

Wheel type: If your vehicle has alloy wheels and the trailer steel wheels, there is a high probability that the wheel nuts will be an entirely different shape and the wheels cant be interchanged.

Insert hole in wheel: Off road camper trailers with 2 tonne or larger bearings require a large centre bore hole for the bearing cap to protrude through. (this is the physics of it, not the brand). Some vehicle brands have either small PCD and / or a small bore hole. In these cases, the off road trailer wheel may be fitted on the vehicle but not the reverse.

Tracking Width: The front wheels tracking width on some 4WD’s is wider than the rear. The perfect trailer tracking width can be anywhere in between.

What do you do if your vehicle has 18inch tyres as standard? This is a size that is hard to get in the bush. The solution here is to downsize the wheels to 17inch or 16inch providing this size wheel will fit over the brake calipers. Then use this matching size on the trailer. The tyres have to have a large inflatable volume and 33inch rolling diameter is preferable for soft sand or beach work.

DOWNLOAD a Matching Wheels and Tyres GuideThis is not a product brochure. But discussion on design issues

Matching Wheels and Tyres Guide 20121203 1 resized 600

Or if you have matching wheels and tyres, then the benefits of monitoring their pressures from the vehicle are in this eBook:

Importance of Optimum Tyre Pressure and Temperature 1 resized 600


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